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Callers’ Experiences of Contacting a National Suicide Prevention Helpline : Report of an Online Survey

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Abstract

Background: Helplines are a significant phenomenon in the mixed economy of health and social care. Given the often anonymous and fleeting nature of caller contact, it is difficult to obtain data about their impact and how users perceive their value. This paper reports findings from an online survey of callers contacting Samaritans emotional support services. Aims: To explore the (self-reported) characteristics of callers using a national suicide prevention helpline and their reasons given for contacting the service, and to present the users’ evaluations of the service they received. Methods: Online survey of a self-selected sample of callers. Results: 1,309 responses were received between May 2008 and May 2009. There were high incidences of expressed suicidality and mental health issues. Regular and ongoing use of the service was common. Respondents used the service for complex and varied reasons and often as part of a network of support. Conclusions: Respondents reported high levels of satisfaction with the service and perceived contact to be helpful. Although Samaritans aims to provide a crisis service, many callers do not access this in isolation or as a last resort, instead contacting the organization selectively and often in tandem with other types of support.

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Most cited references 20

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Suicide prevention strategies: a systematic review.

In 2002, an estimated 877,000 lives were lost worldwide through suicide. Some developed nations have implemented national suicide prevention plans. Although these plans generally propose multiple interventions, their effectiveness is rarely evaluated. To examine evidence for the effectiveness of specific suicide-preventive interventions and to make recommendations for future prevention programs and research. Relevant publications were identified via electronic searches of MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and PsychINFO databases using multiple search terms related to suicide prevention. Studies, published between 1966 and June 2005, included those that evaluated preventative interventions in major domains; education and awareness for the general public and for professionals; screening tools for at-risk individuals; treatment of psychiatric disorders; restricting access to lethal means; and responsible media reporting of suicide. Data were extracted on primary outcomes of interest: suicidal behavior (completion, attempt, ideation), intermediary or secondary outcomes (treatment seeking, identification of at-risk individuals, antidepressant prescription/use rates, referrals), or both. Experts from 15 countries reviewed all studies. Included articles were those that reported on completed and attempted suicide and suicidal ideation; or, where applicable, intermediate outcomes, including help-seeking behavior, identification of at-risk individuals, entry into treatment, and antidepressant prescription rates. We included 3 major types of studies for which the research question was clearly defined: systematic reviews and meta-analyses (n = 10); quantitative studies, either randomized controlled trials (n = 18) or cohort studies (n = 24); and ecological, or population- based studies (n = 41). Heterogeneity of study populations and methodology did not permit formal meta-analysis; thus, a narrative synthesis is presented. Education of physicians and restricting access to lethal means were found to prevent suicide. Other methods including public education, screening programs, and media education need more testing. Physician education in depression recognition and treatment and restricting access to lethal methods reduce suicide rates. Other interventions need more evidence of efficacy. Ascertaining which components of suicide prevention programs are effective in reducing rates of suicide and suicide attempt is essential in order to optimize use of limited resources.
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Suicide and suicidal behavior.

Suicidal behavior is a leading cause of injury and death worldwide. Information about the epidemiology of such behavior is important for policy-making and prevention. The authors reviewed government data on suicide and suicidal behavior and conducted a systematic review of studies on the epidemiology of suicide published from 1997 to 2007. The authors' aims were to examine the prevalence of, trends in, and risk and protective factors for suicidal behavior in the United States and cross-nationally. The data revealed significant cross-national variability in the prevalence of suicidal behavior but consistency in age of onset, transition probabilities, and key risk factors. Suicide is more prevalent among men, whereas nonfatal suicidal behaviors are more prevalent among women and persons who are young, are unmarried, or have a psychiatric disorder. Despite an increase in the treatment of suicidal persons over the past decade, incidence rates of suicidal behavior have remained largely unchanged. Most epidemiologic research on suicidal behavior has focused on patterns and correlates of prevalence. The next generation of studies must examine synergistic effects among modifiable risk and protective factors. New studies must incorporate recent advances in survey methods and clinical assessment. Results should be used in ongoing efforts to decrease the significant loss of life caused by suicidal behavior.
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Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review.

The psychological autopsy method offers the most direct technique currently available for examining the relationship between particular antecedents and suicide. This systematic review aimed to examine the results of studies of suicide that used a psychological autopsy method. A computer aided search of MEDLINE, BIDS ISI and PSYCHLIT, supplemented by reports known to the reviewers and reports identified from the reference lists of other retrieved reports. Two investigators systematically and independently examined all reports. Median proportions were determined and population attributable fractions were calculated, where possible, in cases of suicide and controls. One hundred and fifty-four reports were identified, of which 76 met the criteria for inclusion; 54 were case series and 22 were case-control studies. The median proportion of cases with mental disorder was 91% (95 % CI 81-98%) in the case series. In the case-control studies the figure was 90% (88-95%) in the cases and 27% (14-48%) in the controls. Co-morbid mental disorder and substance abuse also preceded suicide in more cases (38%, 19-57%) than controls (6%, 0-13%). The population attributable fraction for mental disorder ranged from 47-74% in the seven studies in which it could be calculated. The effects of particular disorders and sociological variables have been insufficiently studied to draw clear conclusions. The results indicated that mental disorder was the most strongly associated variable of those that have been studied. Further studies should focus on specific disorders and psychosocial factors. Suicide prevention strategies may be most effective if focused on the treatment of mental disorders.

Author and article information

Affiliations
[1]Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
[2]School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK
[3]NIHR Research Design Service for the East Midlands, University of Nottingham, UK
[4]Communication Department, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, USA
Author notes
Catherine M. Coveney3.09 Ramphal BuildingDepartment of SociologyUniversity of WarwickCoventry, CV4 7ALUK Phone: +44 24 76523147 Fax: +44 24 76523497 E-mail: c.m.coveney@123456warwick.ac.uk
Journal
Crisis
Crisis
Crisis
Hogrefe Publishing
0227-5910
2151-2396
July 3 2012
2012
: 33
: 6
: 313-324
© 2012 Hogrefe Publishing..

Distributed under the Hogrefe OpenMind License

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